Astana hand the Tour de France leadership over to Jakob Fuglsang after Vincenzo Nibali falls further behind race leader Chris Froome

Vincenzo Nibali sank to the bottom after standing on the top of the Tour de France in 2014. Last year’s winner lost 4-25 minutes to Sky’s Chris Froome on stage 10 and prompted his Astana team to say, “something is broken.”

The Sicilian slipped behind 11 kilometres from the finish on La Pierre-Saint-Martin. His team-mates waited, but he had trouble staying with them. All the others fell behind Froome later, but Nibali’s problems seemed the most obvious.

Nibali, since the Tour rolled out of Utrecht, has lost time almost daily. The first mountain stage yesterday appeared a confirmation that all was not right for the Italian national champion.

“Vincenzo needs a good mechanic because something is broken in his head,” general manager, Alexander Vinokourov said.

“The day was a disaster. We’ve decided to give Jakob [Fuglsang] freedom to ride for the classification, instead.”

When the race left Pau on Wednesday morning, Danish rider Fuglsang sat 13th overall at 8-41 – three places and nearly two minutes down on Nibali.

Even with the change in leadership and 11 days still to race, Vinokourov admitted that Astana were not going to win the race and that Nibali would have to try for a stage win.

There is already speculation too, that Nibali and Astana will not renew their association beyond 2016, with the Italian’s contract coming to an end.

“It seems that someone stuck a speed limiter on Vincenzo,” team manager, Giuseppe Martinelli said.

“It’s logical that we are looking for answers to what’s wrong. We’re a little worried.”

Vincenzo Nibali struggles up the climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin

Vincenzo Nibali struggles up the climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin (Sunada)

Martinelli pointed out that others like Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) lost time, but he and others are still within striking distance of the Tour’s podium in Paris on July 26. Nibali, after first last year, may not even manage a top 10.

Making his standing worse with Vinokourov, Nibali failed to win a stage race ahead of the Tour de France.

Some say the problem was that Nibali won the Tour last year. He explained before the race that he had a busy winter with sponsor and team engagements. Adding to his troubles was an Achilles injury and Astana’s troubled winter.

After the Tour win, Astana was hit with five doping positives – two from the WorldTour team. Nibali’s helper Maxim Iglinskiy tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test weeks after Nibali’s victory on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

“My condition is good, but obviously, I can’t do any more,” Nibali explained.

“I don’t even seem like the brother of Nibali from last year. I don’t even know the problem, it’s useless to stand here and try to find the problem.”

 Check out Vincenzo Nibali’s Tour de France Specialzed S-Works

  • dh

    Amazing performance one year, then a huge drop off after his team are put under greater scrutiny for doping. Yeah, it’s a proper mystery.

  • spew

    Disagree. Part of the tour is being able to handle the bike. The cobbles clobbered Froome and he received a broken wrist. Contador took it easy on the cobbles and he lost 2 minutes to Nibali. Contador tried to go down the mountain on the following stage to reclaim it and broke his leg instead.

    Nibali seemed hungrier last year. If you look throughout the tour on multiple stages, he seemed to have ridden more aggressively taking seconds here, and seconds there before the other 2 were out.

  • Desbil

    Falling from grace , Another doped rider biting the dust.ADIOS

  • J1

    Oh yes.

  • ThePollitikat

    Nibali already explained he has not totally recouperated from winning the tour. He had many obligations due to being the tour de france winner he has basically been touring since winning last year. He also had to deal with injury and licencing issues. I think he is mentally stressed and not in the same form as last year and not obsessed with winning it again. He has already won all 3GT. I dont think he has ambitions of dominating the tour. He has already won all 3, plus two championships and a bunch of other races.

  • ThePollitikat

    Disagree. He beat valverde and TJ they are both outperforming him this year. He is not in good form. Neither GT or RP could keep up with him…sky won no stages, so clearly much weaker…and Bert was behind when he crashed.

  • ThePollitikat

    He won Italian championship again, that’s still a victory.

  • ThePollitikat

    Nibali already explained this, he is fatigued and mentally stressed from winning the tour. Why doesn’t anyone believe him? He said he never really recouperated from winning last year because of obligations of being tour winner. He has basically been touring since winning. He also had to deal with injury and the controversy about the doping and licencing. Menatally he is drained and he has not been able to prepare as he would have liked physically or mentally. He knows he is not in the same form as last year. But as defending champion he came to give it a go. I dont think he expected to win and said he is not obsessed with winning it again. He has already won all 3GT. I dont think he has ambitions of dominating the tour. He has already won all 3, plus two championships and a bunch of other races.

  • chris

    Nibali is a top rider, this is clear in the last 5 years. However, i have a problem with the support riders as dopers. Is Nibali drug free this year? hence his reduced cadence? there is no reason why a top rider would suddenly lose cadence and power unless they were fatigued from another tour like the Giro…….. he should be fresh as a daisy

  • Kevino Daviessss

    Bit of a coincidence! Too many cookies me thinks!

  • Kamoteng Baging

    Everybody knows why he is in a bad form.

  • Jethrodog

    I hope not. Just with my jaded sensibilities it just seems so easy to link it all together.

  • Jethrodog

    Astana gets caught with the doping hand in the cookie jar. Then they “make concessions” to be able to keep their World License. Wonder if Nibali not performing as well is due to them being under the microscope and the threat of being caught.

  • lippington

    Simple answer is Nibali won last year by default due to the withdrawal of Froome and Contador.

  • Dan

    That’s strange considering that he hasn’t ridden the Giro since 2013, and has won a Tour de France and two National championships since then

  • captainPerfect

    Nibali faded away in the Giro and has just struggled ever since